“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” – Steve Jobs
As funeral professionals, business owners, partners, spouses, parents, friends and humans, we all wish we had more time. In this day and age, it seems as if there is never enough to spend with grieving families, check off everything on the to-do list, connect with our own families and unwind from a busy day.
In January, we published a list of some of our favorite time-saving tools. This has been a popular topic, so we wanted to follow up with some of the Homesteaders Leadership Team’s best practices for time management. This is not an all-inclusive list, but hopefully you will find one piece of advice to embrace and implement.
Make a List
Taking the time to list your tasks and projects for the day/week gives focus as well as a sense of accomplishment. Many studies have shown that the physical act of crossing items off a list releases a chemical in our brain that give us a sense of pleasure and motivation. Naturally, we want more of that feeling so we learn to repeat that behavior and keep checking items off our list. “While the sense of accomplishment from crossing something off the list is rewarding and motivating, it also helps to organize how I need to spend my day,” shared Judy Ralston-Hansen, Homesteaders Executive VP-HR/Administration.
The common practice among our leadership team is an old-fashioned, pen-to-paper to-do list. Not only does this allow you to physically cross off completed items, it also allows for re-prioritization when necessary.
Prioritize Your Workload
Not all tasks are created equal. Some need to get done sooner rather than later, and some will take more time. While there are many schools of thought for how to prioritize your workload, finding your right fit is key.
Jim Koher, Executive VP-Chief Actuary at Homesteaders, advises to “only touch paperwork one time. If you triage it, it’s more effective.” Get the immediate tasks completed right away, then prioritize according to deadline and importance.
Another approach is to “eat the frog first,” according to Ralston-Hansen. Try to get either the most challenging, time-consuming or unappealing task on your list done first. Once that is done, you’ve “eaten the frog” and are free to approach other priorities.
Use Calendars and Online Tools
While having a physical to-do list is a popular method for keeping track of what needs to be done, using your online calendar and email system can also help you plan and manage your time. Block off time on your calendar to ensure you will not over-commit and have time to tackle those tasks needing your attention. You can also use your online calendar to build in reminders for tasks that need to be done. “Any scheduling software or calendar book can help you stay organized so you can maintain your routine. The best advice I can offer is to pick something that is right for you,” advises Dean Lambert, Homesteaders Senior VP-Marketing and Communications.
It’s Okay to Say “No”
We want to do it all – be everything to everyone, but that is just not possible. Learning how to prioritize and say no is not easy for some. “Many times we say yes as a courtesy because saying no is more difficult,” says Krista Frank, Homesteaders Senior VP-Customer Service. “Only say yes to those things that you must or want to do. Learn to decline graciously.” Saying no doesn’t have to mean that the task will not get done. Some tasks can be delegated to others on your team. Move those items onto a list for you to follow up on at a later date. Not only will this free up some of your time, it will also help to develop someone else.
Sometimes saying no means being a little stingy with your time. Closing your office door to minimize interruptions when working on a critical project is acceptable, just be sure not to over use it. Our leaders also advise that when people ask if you “have a minute,” it’s okay to let them know you don’t have time right then, but affirm that you’ll be available at a later time in the day.
Take Care of Yourself
One of the most important things we forget to do when we are busy is to take time for ourselves. Keeping all aspects of our life in balance is important. “I try to keep a balance between work, family and other (social, health/fitness, etc.),” shared Steve Pick, Homesteaders Executive VP-CFO and Treasurer. “That balance continually shifts. Sometimes, work demands the bulk of the time or family does. But I try to never let one totally dominate my schedule. I always try to make room for all three.”
While this is probably the most important piece of advice, it’s not always easy. Our experts have a few quick tips to help keep life in balance.
- Get up early and enjoy some quiet time before the day begins.
- Stay at least a few minutes after everyone leaves to organize yourself for the next day.
- Go for a short walk. If you find you are spinning your wheels or working on non-urgent work, a quick walk around the office can clear your head and help refocus.
- Stick to a routine. If your schedule allows, advance planning and blocking out time for meals and exercise help you keep you healthy and productive at work.
Finding Resilience is another resource containing helpful information for your work-life balance. The Finding Resilience program was created by Homesteaders in partnership with Dr. Jason Troyer, PhD CT, to offer resources and support to those working closely with families affected by end-of-life decisions and funeral planning. It is designed specifically for funeral and allied professionals to help prevent burnout and support a reduction in career fatigue.
“We can all agree that it is important for every professional to be at their very best when serving a family in need,” shares Steve Shaffer, Homesteaders President and CEO. Whether it’s finding successful ways to organize your tasks, prioritizing your work day or making time for self-care, hopefully you find that one of these time-saving tips will help ease your daily workload.
What time management advice do you have for other funeral professionals? Please share your successful time-saving strategies in the comments.